Definition of sadism in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈsāˌdizəm/


1The tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.
Example sentences
  • They include auto-mutilation of her genitals with a razor, voyeurism, taking sexual pleasure in urination, sadism, and masochism.
  • This showed that CPA was an effective agent in the treatment of very severe paraphilias, in this case sexual sadism and pedophilia that resulted in a sexually motivated homicide.
  • Yet this scenario of male sadism and necrophiliac fetishism, this duality of adoration and humiliation does not feel quite right.
1.1(In general use) deliberate cruelty.
Example sentences
  • What follows is a litany of deceit, double-crosses, sadism, crimes, cruelty and surprises along the way.
  • The result is a rising tide of neglect, cruelty, sadism, and joyous malignity that staggers and appalls me.
  • People can become monsters in these circumstances, which invite atrocities and license sadism and gratuitous cruelty.


Late 19th century: from French sadisme, from the name of the Marquis de Sade, Comte de.

  • During several periods of imprisonment in the later 18th and early 19th centuries, French writer and soldier the Marquis de Sade (1740–1814) wrote pornographic books. One sexual perversion in particular fascinated him, arousal from inflicting pain on others. The French named it sadisme after him, and English adopted the word as sadism in the 1880s. See also masochism

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sa·dism

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.